Moreno had his best year by far in 2013, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and posting 10 touchdowns. He is also a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield, and he's a good blocker.
All that being said, the Broncos are probably going to let him go in free agency. He's struggled with injuries in the past. He performed well, but in a contract year. He also got the benefit of an incredible amount of soft fronts since Denver's offense was posting historic numbers mostly through the air.
You get the feeling that the head office is happy with what he did, but that they are not confident that he can do it again. Vic Lombardi posted this statement from John Elway, which sums it up perfectly:
Elway on Knowshon: "we'll see how things flesh out. We have some young backs…it's a position we have a lot of good competition"— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) February 4, 2014
It may not even be a lack of confidence in Moreno as much as it is a vote of confidence for a younger back: Montee Ball.
The Broncos took Ball in Round 2 of the 2013 NFL draft. Moreno had been hurt, benched and unimpressive when he was on the field. He then stormed out to have a great year, but that does not change the fact that Denver took Ball to make him the starter.
In many ways, he's exactly what the Broncos need. He's a big, powerful runner with a nose for the end zone. He's strong and durable. He knows how to put his shoulder down and run downhill.
He's the kind of back who hits the hole hard and knocks people over.
Think about this: At Wisconsin, where he played his college ball, he was the focal point of the offense. Every single team that had to face the Badgers thought about just one thing: Stopping Montee Ball.
He still set the record for touchdowns in a career.
No big deal.
Ball was a rookie last season, so he didn't get on the field too much, but you could see him growing into the role every time that he did. Getting more confidence. Finding his place in the offense.
He finished the year with 559 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who spent most of his time on the bench, watching Moreno have a career year.
Ball also finished on a high note in the regular season, his average climbing nicely. He only averaged 3.0 yards per carry in his first game, but he averaged 7.2 in his last regular-season game. And it wasn't like he had one carry for seven yards in that game, either. He posted 72 yards on the night.
Four weeks before, in what at the time was Denver's biggest game of the 2013—especially coming one week after a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots—Ball ran for 117 yards on just 13 carries in a road win over the Kansas City Chiefs, helping the Broncos take control of the AFC West.
Ball had a far better college career than Knowshon Moreno, and he's set himself up nicely to have a better pro career, as well.
If Ball had been the starter instead of the backup, you can bet that his numbers would have been comparable to Moreno's. He would have easily doubled his totals, especially as the season went on. Playing in a pass-first offense, a back who is used to seeing eight men in the box would have had a field day.
Denver was smart to go with Moreno in 2013, though, because the veteran back knew the system and his blocking assignments. Ball was new and inexperienced.
But he has caught up now, and Denver is likely going to let Moreno hit free agency.
Denver fans might be angry at first, but they'll forget all about Moreno by the middle of 2014 when Montee Ball is leading the rushing attack, bringing more energy, power and aggressiveness to the Broncos than they've had in a long time.